Quote of the day: 20 November

Even very young, the Servant of God said she would become a nun and consecrate herself to God, and nobody around her was surprised. She said she wanted to withdraw to the desert in order to belong to God alone. When our sister Pauline was admitted to the Carmel and the Servant of God heard what life inside was like, she realised it was in the Carmelite Order that her aspirations would be fulfilled.

You ask whether she prayed to God and sought counsel in order to resolve the problem of her vocation. I don’t think there was ever a problem of vocation for her. She never questioned whether or not she should consecrate herself to God. The answer was obvious to her. She wondered only how to reach her goal.

With regards to this, she sought counsel from Mother Agnes of Jesus, whom she would visit at the Carmel. The Jesuit priest Father Pichon, our family’s spiritual director, also encouraged her at this point. On Pentecost Sunday 1887, Thérèse shared her desire to become a Carmelite with our father. Marie, our eldest sister, had joined Pauline at the Carmel on 15th October 1886. With saintly faith and simplicity, our father gave her his consent, but our uncle and Thérèse’s legal guardian, Mr Guérin, was opposed to it. He said she should wait until she was a least 17. However he soon yielded, God having softened his heart in this matter.

There remained other difficulties to overcome: the ecclesiastical superior of the Carmel, Father Delatroëtte, refused to admit her because he considered her too young. Thérèse therefore had to appeal to the bishop. With this in view, she went to Bayeux with our father, but when she received only an evasive response, she decided that on her imminent trip to Rome, she would ask His Holiness Pope Leo XIII for the authorisation she sought [MsA 62r, ff]. She made this trip with our father and myself. The Holy Father did not give her a clear answer either [Papal audience, 20 November 1887] and referred the matter back to the Superiors of the Carmel and Providence.

Once back in France, Thérèse gave herself entirely over to the advice of her sister Pauline in the matter of her vocation [Cf. Ordinary Process, Witness 1, Sixteenth Question, 148r]. She wrote to his Lordship the Bishop of Bayeux, and on 28th December 1887, he replied and gave her the authorisation she sought. However, desirous to appease the still protesting Superior, the Mother Prioress of the Carmel delayed her admittance until after Lent. It was therefore not until 9th April of the following year, 1888, that Thérèse stepped over the threshold to the cloister, accompanied by her father and the rest of her family.

Sr. Geneviève of St. Teresa, O.C.D.

(Celine Martin)
Apostolic Process, Witness 8
Response to Question 11

Thérèse and Leo XIII – a later watercolor based on a charcoal by Céline.
© Archives du Carmel de Lisieux

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